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Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Yes. I’m late to the party. But this movie screamed at me to make a review. Not so much on the cinematography, or the acting, or set design, or CGI–all of those things had their varying degrees of quality. What I want to really focus on was the script.

Which makes sense, as this is my blog about writing.

So let’s break it up into digestible chunks. Oh and SPOILERS AHEAD for those like me that waited a while to see it.

Pacing

This is a tricky one. As some of this can be put on the director’s shoulders. But there were several key things in the script that I felt could have been cut for time and pacing–as they didn’t add anything to the plot.

The River people. Why on earth were they a part of this film? They added nothing to the plot. Initially the idea sounds great. A village of women who have lost their husbands to the war and now live a secluded live along the river. Unfortunately their function was only to let the Huntsman know who Show White was. That could have been handled easily by the dwarves. Who are arguably the most interesting characters in the film and don’t show up until close to the mid point.

Internal Logic

The script likes to take leave of its internal logic on several occasions. On on others, just isn’t logical at all. For instance, the Queen commands her brother to find someone to go into the Dark Forest(TM) to find Snow White. Cut to The Huntsman getting the crap kicked out of him in a bar brawl.

So, am I going to pick the guy who’s winning the fight? Or the loser? Obviously the loser! He must be a downtrodden warrior ready to make his comeback.

I’ll concede that they later explain he’s survived the forest before. But his introduction wouldn’t inspire me to hire him at all.

But here is where even that idea breaks down. After they lose him, they hire more thugs to go. Now we have an entire D&D party worth of soldiers who’ve gone into the forest and all appear much more capable. So why would I have bothered with the Huntsman to begin with? The script completely undercuts the importance of his ability to traverse the Dark Forest(TM).

But the biggest slap in the face comes when Bob Hoskins’ character says that Snow White is the “essence of Life.” OK, she’s the antithesis of the Queen who is death incarnate. Got it.

Then not ten minutes later when the bad guys attack them, a dwarf throws himself in front of Snow White to save her from an arrow coming her way. The little dwarf lay dying in her arms, arrow sticking up through his chest. But that’s OK, Snow White is the essence of life. She’ll bring him back and demonstrate her power, right?

Wrong.

She lets him die.

Looks like she’s the essence of “Meh.”

Too Many Characters, Not Enough Time

This ties back into pacing. The script writers crammed far too many characters into the film. Characters that all serve a similar function and so they can be combined. Snow White has a child hood friend named William that grows up to come save her. But he is essentially filling the same role as The Huntsman. These two could have been the same character.

You could even attach the Huntsman to the group of thugs and they all go out together. Where he has a change of heart, saves her, and whisks her away from the pursuers. Simple and effective way to tighten up the script.

As for the River People, they could be combined with the dwarves. River Dwarves? Hrm, I may have to hold onto that one. Anyway, for the purposes of this movie, cut the River People and move the dwarves up.  The dwarves could push the plot along more effectively than a village of people that have maybe five minutes of screen time.

My Take

I’ll take you through my thoughts on how this story could be done in a cleaner method.

The beginning is roughly the same. Evil Witch tricks King into marrying her (now Evil Queen), and opens gates for her army to roll in. She imprisons Snow White (even though the Evil Overlord Handbook says kill her then and there). Ten years later Snow escapes into the Dark Forest(TM) with the help of her animal friends.

Diverge Here

Evil Queen sets a bounty. “Need Trackers to retrieve prisoner. Pays Well. Dark Forest experience a plus.” The Huntsman–along with his fellow thugs–sign up as they don’t have much to lose. They don’t ask who they’re tracking because frankly, they want the money. However, when they find Snow White he reneges on the contract. Not willing to turn over a “harmless girl.”

The other thugs don’t care and a fight erupts. We get to see his ability to fight and the two get away.

They are able to get out of the Dark Forest unharmed. But then, ack!, dwarven bandits attack while crossing a bridge. The Huntsman is outnumbered and Snow White is trussed up. Unfortunately for everyone, a Troll lives by that bridge and goes after everyone. We get to see how the dwarves work together and within the fight must work with the Huntsman.

Snow White, right before the Huntsman is smashed to bits, screams out for the Troll to stop. He obeys and everyone is stunned. Her powers of life and ability to commune with nature sends the Troll away. The dwarves are floored and their leader realizes who she is.

They take everyone to Sanctuary where it is explained to the Huntsman who she is. We get our meeting with the White Stag and explanation that she’s the essence of Life. Then, when the Thugs attack, everything goes like the movie accept she brings life back to the dead dwarf.

We now have to get her to the Duke and raise an army. On our travels there we get the bit where she eats the poisoned apple. Sad day, take her to the Duke anyway. Huntsman kisses her and she comes “back to life.” Everyone is emboldened by her and off to war!

Big change here. She’s isn’t dressed in mail and wielding a sword. Instead we set her up as something of a wizard. Using her abilities to perhaps, calm people. Or heal those in battle. Perhaps even able to repel arrows with discs of light. We’ve already had Trolls and Fairies. Why not good magic?

This makes the final confrontation with the Evil Queen an epic wizard’s duel. Time for everyone to sling spells instead of her instantly knowing martial skills.

The end would play out much the same.

At least, that’s how I would have done it. Maybe next time they’ll ask me to write the script.

The Finish Line

I don’t often talk about my personal projects. Not unless I’m trying to promote them. But if they’re a work in progress I just focus on the work and get it done.

Well my first novel is coming up to the finish line, and I’m taking a moment to reflect the past eight months.

When I had started the book back around Christmas, 2011 I had planned on 50 thousand words and 20 chapters. Which if you brake it down comes to about 2k words a chapter. It was good goal and my opinion is that you should set one like it for yourself. At least for a first novel. It gives you something to strive for.

Now that I’m nearing the completion of the novel, I’m going into chapter 28 and have around 66k words to show for it. With probably another five chapters to go. And I’m very excited.

My writing group has been very positive about this alpha read and they’ve been giving me the support that I’ll need to take with me into the edits. And from what I’ve heard, and go already tell, will be where most of the work is actually done. I can already see where things will need to be beefed up, cut out, and moved around. There are themes that I need to really make sure are stressed.

So I have a new goal going into the rewrite. I’d like to have it done in four months. This will have put me at a year for my first book. Which from what I’ve gathered is pretty normal. Though, Martin has taken six years to write “A Dance With Dragons,” so really I’m doing really well.

Once the rewrite is done, I’ll hand it off to some trusted people that I’ve chosen to be my Beta readers. I’ll want them to focus on content and give me their initial feel for the book. Once I get those back–and depending on their reaction–I’ll either do another draft or send it off for copy-editing.

It’s been a fun ride to see this story come together. I can’t wait to see what the Betas will think of it.

Getting Reviews

A writing friend of mine–Matthew Quinn–has recently thrown himself into the Kindle Pool of self-publishing. His work is called, “Melon Heads,” and if you’re into slasher, b-movie style horror stories it may be up your alley.

While it is exciting to put your work up on Amazon and see what will happen, one of the biggest frustrations is seeing your downloads and sales numbers go up without getting a single review. Which as much as we–meaning authors–loves sales, getting reviews can be just as important. Having enough reviews can mean driving sales.

So it can be disheartening to see that section of the page stagnate.

Now your question is, “Jeffrey, how do we get reviews?” That’s a great question. Let me know when you find the answer. Because I haven’t found a sure fire way of getting them.

I do know of two, sure fire ways of not getting them–or at least not getting real ones. If you have to ask for it, you won’t get it. Hitting up Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social media and asking for people to come review your work will send people running. I’m not exactly sure why this is. I imagine it is because we come off as insecure as an author. Or perhaps people don’t like being told what to do.

The best you can hope for is to put the work out there and let it stand on its own. Of course, if anyone has been able to generate a sizable amount of honest reviews through asking, let me know. I’d love to hear how you did it.

The second way of not getting reviews is by offering it for free. You may get a few, but expect for every 100 downloads a single review. If that. There is another strange psychological effect going on here. The best I have figured–and read from others who believe the same–that if there is no value attached to the work, then people don’t care about it. Should they spend money on something, then they become more vocal.

I do have speculations however on how to generate some honest, unsolicited reviews. These are based purely on loose observation.

A starter–and the most important, I think–is having volume. The same principle behind growing sales with more volume can be applied to getting more reviews. The more a reader can get from you, the more likely they are going to spend their time reviewing the work. They’re invested–they may even enjoy your work–so they will want others to enjoy it too. It’s all about word of mouth, and the more work you have the more you can be spread around.

Next, advertise. Get the information that it is out there. This can be a tricky thing. It’s not like asking for reviews. You’re simply letting people know that the work exists. This is a hard road. You’ll spend a lot of time finding markets to let people know that it’s there. You also need to be sure not to over-saturate any of your social media. That can also turn people off. I’ve dropped a few people from my twitter feed who would tweet the same thing within minutes of each other.

When it comes to reviews, we have to be patient. Put the work out there, advertise, and then move on to the next story. There isn’t a quick track to reviews for a fairly new author. Just keep writing and eventually the audience will find you.

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